Go for the wine; keep going back for the food. Max's Wine Dive has a first-rate wine list, but it's this joint's food that separates it from the growing number of wine bars stretched along Washington. From the Texas-size Kobe-beef burger topped with creamy brie to the fried-egg sandwich with three eggs covered in truffle oil, smoked bacon and Gruyère cheese, Max's elevates dive-bar food to the level of straight-up cuisine. Often cramped with "pretty people," this place sometimes feels like a busy Manhattan bar. But sinful treats like the "Big Ass Brownie" and the "Guinness Float" are more than enough to put the soul at ease.

Catalan Food & Wine Bar

Antonio Gianola is the sommelier at Catalan, and his passion for wine is scary. Gianola demonstrated his encyclopedic knowledge of Italian wines while he served as the wine steward at Da Marco. While composing the wine list at Catalan, he began reaching out to the world's most forward-thinking winemakers. When Gianola starts talking about these folks — eco-sensitive French winemakers who baby every organic grape into the bottle and eccentric Italian producers who are burying their wines in amphoras to re-create the flavors of ancient Rome — you start to wonder if the sommelier has gone off the deep end. But the proof is in the drinking. It's easy to put together a bunch of ridiculously priced Bordeaux and Burgundies and call it a great wine list. But Gianola has assembled a list of stunning, innovative wines in the $30-to-$60 range that puts most of the wine lists in Houston to shame.

Coozan's Hot Wings & Bayou Cafe

There's a sign near the register that says, "10 minutes to cook, 1 minute to shake on the sauce, 1 minute to serve, hot & fresh." This is their way of letting you know that all their wings are made to order, so be patient. The wait is definitely worthwhile. What makes these wings special is the sauce. The "Original Hot" is the starting point here, with the unmistakable flavor of Tabasco. From here you move to "Cajun Mojo," which adds a good heat level courtesy of cayenne pepper, and then to "Insanely Hot," which is sure to be a challenge to those who routinely enter jalapeño-eating contests. If spicy is not your bag, Coozan's also has a smooth Honey BBQ sauce and a Lemon Pepper that provide excellent alternatives.

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